Jesus and his followers were in an area known as the ‘Decapolis’ (literally ‘ten cities’). This was the area to the east of the Sea of Galilee and was not part of Galilee or Judea, but is described as the centre of Greek and Roman culture – most of it is located in the nation of Jordan today. Jesus seems to have been on one of the hills overlooking the lake, as he immediately got into a boat at the end of his time there.
When people heard that Jesus was there a crowd flocked to him. At the end of Mark 7 Jesus healed a man who was deaf and had difficulty speaking. It would appear that crowds were coming and going with Jesus and his followers, staying where they were. At the beginning of Mark 8 another large crowd gathered and stayed for a few days.
“During those days another large crowd gathered. Since they had nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples to him and said, ‘I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, because some of them have come a long distance.’ His disciples answered, ‘But where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them?’” (Mark 8:1-4 NIV)
A crowd of people in a sparsely populated area. They had been there for three days. Undoubtedly they had brought food with them but that now seems to be gone. What were they to do?
Jesus was reluctant to send them home without something to eat first. Many had come from a distance and needed food to make the journey home. As they would be on foot, they had best part of a day of travel ahead of them to get to the other side of the lake.
When I read the response of the disciples to Jesus statement, I could wonder if they even remembered what had happened a few months earlier in a similar situation when Jesus fed over 5000 with a boy’s lunch. But they did remember, as we can see later in this chapter. But they don’t seem to have learned the lesson – with Jesus there, a lack of food was not a real problem. They needed to trust Jesus.
“‘How many loaves do you have?’ Jesus asked. ‘Seven,’ they replied. He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. When he had taken the seven loaves and given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people, and they did so. They had a few small fish as well; he gave thanks for them also and told the disciples to distribute them. The people ate and were satisfied. Afterwards the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. About four thousand were present.” (Mark 8:5-9)
This is so similar to what happened earlier – you wonder if the disciples thought they were experiencing deja vu! This time there were seven loaves of bread and a few small fish. Jesus again gave thanks and had the disciples pass the food out to the people. They people ate and were satisfied – they had an excellent sufficiency even thought there were around 4000 people there. They started with seven loaves and ended up with seven large baskets full of broken pieces!
We, like the disciples, need to learn to trust Jesus and not to doubt him. He is with us and he will continue to be with us. He supplies what we need and will continue to do this. The Hebrew writer described him this way: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever” (Hebrews 13:8).
May we learn to trust and rely on Jesus every day.
Photo looking toward eastern side of Galilee from Tiberias by Jon Galloway, November 2019.
Readings for next week: Mark 5-9